Results

I. HISTOLOGICAL STUDIES ON THE ANCIENT FLESH.

The tissue structure appears markedly abnormal due to the lack of histochemical detectability of nuclei and to some degree of global homogenization.
However, in different microscope campuses and microsection levels the mesodermal origin of the tissue appears clearly; most fibers with longitudinal orientation ([Fig.1] [Fig.2]), but some also in different directions can be observed ([Fig.3] [Fig.4]).

The fibres have different length (as can be better appreciated where they are dissociated) have even thickness and look assembled in bundles of different size.
In particular, at higher magnification, the fibres reveal a longitudinal fibrous structure ([Fig.4]) and all the above mentioned data lead us to the identification of a striated muscular tissue even if the striation is lacking because of the age of the sample. Indeed, this tissue typically consists of syncytial aggregates formed by the fibres through bifurcation and end-to-end junctions ([Fig.5] [Fig.6] [Fig.7] [Fig.8] [Fig.9]); this is visible in all the districts studied in this wide screening which has lead to the identification of myocardial tissue.
The syncytial aggregation of the fibres is a consistent feature of the tissue with sometimes transversal junctions ([Fig.6] [Fig.7]) also where fibres are more crowded and form a dense body. Moreover, a lobule of adipose tissue was found in the interstice of striated muscle and intersected by fibres scattering around ([Fig.10] [Fig.11] [Fig.12]).
A network of vessels can be seen, both of arterial and venous type. In one site, close to the vessels, a nervous structure can be seen, to be ascribed to the vagal nerve ([Fig.13]). The latter can also be seen as an isolated structure with a thin fibrous coat (perinervium) ([Fig.14]).
Last, endocardial structures can be seen, well detectable due to a "lamina" of fibrous tissue with papillar `hills'. In the deeper areas the myocardial tissue can be seen with a clear syncytial structure ([Fig.15] [Fig.16]).

These data are confirmed also at higher magnification, even if the endothelial coat is missing due to the age of the tissue ([Fig.17] [Fig.18]).

It may be underlined that in no histological section any picture appears which could suggest a previous treatment of the tissue with mummifying substances such as those used in the past for the preservation of tissues.

CONCLUSION (I):

From the study of the ancient Flesh of Lanciano it appears clear that we are dealing with a striated muscular tissue which for its diffuse syncytial junctions among the fibres, appears to be of myocardial origin, with arterial and venous vessels and two thin branches of the vagal nerve.
This identification is made on the basis of the scattered orientation of the fibers, their consistent end-to-end syncytial aggregation, the presence of some transversal connections and the penetration of muscle fibers within some interstitial adipose lobules; all these observations are not compatible with the aspect of a skeletal muscular tissue.
Finally, the endocardial layer is visible, with "rough hills"on the cavity surface; in the subendocardial district, normal myocardial tissue is visible.
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